General Conference President Ted N. C. Wilson focused on the transforming power of Christ’s love in his sermon for the 2019 Annual Council worship service as he delved into the purpose of Christ’s death and resurrection. “God’s Restoring Salvation: Our Last Day’s Message” was the title for his address that began with biblical text and imagery of Christ’s crucifixion.
He described the thief on the cross who pleaded for Christ to save him. Christ responded that the thief would be with Him in paradise. “That’s justification. Immediate! But Christ’s righteousness does not stop with justification. It continues as you accept the power of the Holy Spirit to give you sanctification working in your life to will and to do according to His good pleasure, not your own,” he said.
Then, quoting Ellen White’s recommendation that one should meditate for an hour every day on the death of Christ, he sat down and asked the audience to spend 90 seconds imagining what the crucifixion must have been like and meditating on the meaning of Christ’s death.
When he returned to the microphone he spoke of what happened next. Christ was put in a tomb where he spent the Sabbath resting. “On Sunday morning — in a dramatic way, Jesus is called from the grave! Because of that, Jesus is now ministering for you and for me in the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary, giving us the opportunity of eternal life!” he said. “Christ and His righteousness is at the very core of the three angels’ messages and what Seventh-day Adventists are to proclaim in word and deed with Holy Spirit power in these last days of earth’s history.”
The thief on the cross was not the only criminal whose experience Wilson used to illustrate Christ’s transforming power of sanctification. He told the story of Don Johnson, a man convicted of murdering his wife who was executed by the state of Tennessee earlier this year. While in prison, Johnson took Bible studies and was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Wilson interviewed on stage several people who had visited with Johnson in prison. John Dysinger had been asked to be Johnson’s spiritual adviser when Johnson was put on death row. He would take his family with him to the prison, including his daughter Kirsten Dysinger. “He was always cheerful,” she recalled, “he never had a bad word to say about anyone. When you asked him how he was doing, he would reply that he was too blessed to be stressed.”
Pastor Furman Fordham recalled when one Sabbath, a guest came to church, who had been released from prison. He had studied with Don Johnson. Johnson had been ordained as an elder while on death row. Paul was on death row, also, Fordham said. “There is sanctifying power that changes our lives. Johnson went to his death like a reformer knowing the date and time as though he was going to be burned. Confident that even if it was God’s will that he died he would rise again.”
The saving power of Christ shown through not only in the words of the sermon and testimonies, but in the music. To open the service Orlando pastor Charles Haugabrooks led the congregation in a rousing rendition of “Because He Lives.” Later, just before the sermon he was joined by his daughter in singing “I’ve Just Seen Jesus.” And he sang the early Adventist hymn “The Midnight Cry” to conclude the sermon after Elder Wilson had suggested to the audience members that they participate in a public evangelism event in the coming year.
Sometimes, Wilson’s sermons are filled with admonishments to the audience about what they should or should not be doing. This year, he stayed focused on Jesus. “In our conversations during Annual Council over the next days — Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday — we will not always agree,” he said. “I pledge to humble myself so I will be seen less and Jesus will be seen more.”
Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum.
Photo: Ted N. C. Wilson, President, General Conference (GC) preaching the sermon "God's Restoring Salvation." General Conference Annual Council 2019, October 12-16, 2019. Courtesy of the Adventist News Network on Flickr.
The live stream schedule for Annual Council can be found on the Executive Committee website here: https://executivecommittee.adventist.org/live/
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